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Cell Microbiol. 2004 Aug;6(8):753-9.

Regulated expression of pathogen-associated molecular pattern molecules in Staphylococcus epidermidis: quorum-sensing determines pro-inflammatory capacity and production of phenol-soluble modulins.

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Laboratory of Human Bacterial Pathogenesis, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, The National Institutes of Health, 903 S 4th Street, Hamilton, MT 59840, USA.


Phenol-soluble modulin (PSM) is a peptide complex produced by the nosocomial pathogen Staphylococcus epidermidis that has a strong capacity to activate the human innate immune response. We developed a novel method based on liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to quantify the production of the individual PSM components. Each PSM peptide was abundant in most of the 76 S epidermidis strains tested. Importantly, none of the PSM components were secreted by an agr mutant strain, indicating that PSM synthesis is regulated strictly by the agr quorum-sensing system. Furthermore, the agr mutant strain failed to elicit production of TNFalpha by human myeloid cells and induced significantly less neutrophil chemotaxis compared with the wild-type strain. Thus, quorum-sensing in S. epidermidis dramatically influenced activation of human host defence. We propose that an agr quorum-sensing mechanism facilitates growth and survival in infected hosts by adapting production of the pro-inflammatory PSMs to the stage of infection.

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